Friday, April 22, 2011

Paul Krugman: Patients Are Not Consumers

Paul Krugman writes:

How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.
What has gone wrong with us?

More here.

Consumer Driven Health Care advocates legitimately point out that health care's supply-driven economics insulate patients from costs and thereby increase them. However, CDHC counts on a degree of health literacy that isn't possible under the best of circumstances, and the United States doesn't have the best of circumstances. For example, patients rarely have access to care outside of their insurance plan, meaning that quality and competition is subject to financial penalty. Moreover, there are no standards with which patients can compare costs and quality, and even if there were, there's no way to access them.

Negotiating the U.S. health care apparatus is a daunting task for medical professionals. How can people facing potentially mortal conditions be expected to do it?